7 Tips for Greater Intimacy by Dr. Nicastro
Sexual/physical intimacy is one of the most powerful and connecting experiences for couples. And while some couples seem perfectly fine with little sexual connection, for others, the expression of love, pleasure and sensuality through sexual contact is central to a fulfilling marriage/relationship.
The challenge for couples in long-term marriages/relationships is to find ways to nurture sexual intimacy. You may have noticed that sexual desire is pretty fragile. It buckles under the demands of life (work stress, the demands and pull of parenting, the pressure of caring for elderly parents), and it is highly sensitive to our own internal conflicts and emotional struggles (our self-image; how we feel about our bodies; self-judgment and feelings of guilt over sexual pleasure and abandon).
Here are seven relationship tips to keep in mind when it comes to passion, sex and intimacy:
1: Couples need to be mindful of sexual desire’s fragile nature and when possible, take steps to protect this part of your relationship from the influences that can extinguish desire (practicing self-care and stress management are central; setting appropriate boundaries around the relationship);
2: Couples need to be aware of the relationship conditions that positively and negatively affect sexual intimacy and desire (effective couples communication is essential in creating a supportive and trusting atmosphere that will allow the emotional vulnerability needed for a fulfilling sex life);
3: You and your spouse/partner may have very different sexual rhythms—approach these differences with understanding and openness rather than blame or judgment (“You want sex all the time, what’s wrong with you?!” is not the message you want to be sending);
4: Turn-ons and sexual fantasies can vary widely between individuals, no matter how compatible in other areas – therefore, couples must work to create an atmosphere of mutual curiosity and acceptance that will allow the expression of both partners’ sexual desires and longings – remember, not feeling safe enough to share your deepest desires forces these desires to go underground where they remain hidden, unarticulated and frustrated.
5: Be mindful of your long-standing beliefs and attitudes that may block sexual fulfillment and intimacy— certain anti-sex/anti-pleasure attitudes (which may be unconscious) can arise from the messages you received growing up about sexuality, or they may result from your own sexual history, experiences that may have negatively shaped your views about intimacy;
6: A mindset of sexual exploration, play and discovery will allow you and your partner to experience sexual fulfillment as an evolving phenomenon, no matter how long you’ve been together (or how well you think you know your spouse/partner) – learning about each other sexually (as well as yourself) should be a lifelong journey of discovery;
7: At some point in your marriage/relationship, it may feel like there are always competing priorities and good reasons to place sex on the back burner—the truth is, couples in long-term relationships make the decision and put in the effort for sex. These decisions have to be made over and over again so that physical intimacy (and the emotional intimacy that it fosters) doesn’t wither away.
In a loving relationship, nurturing sex, emotional intimacy and love are one and the same.